The Experimental Farmer of Kitui County
Raphael Muli, is a youthful university graduate based in Miambani village in Kitui County, who is passionate about farming. He is lucky to have Mr. Benedict Mathitu, an agricultural extension officer in Kitui county, as a friend who encourages and provides him with sound agricultural advice. Raphael who previously grew maize and beans, developed an interest in growing horticultural crops. He has leased land near a river where he uses water from the river to irrigate his crops. KiMI staff paid him a visit to learn more about his farming.
Tell us more about your farming venture
I grew up juggling farming and pursuing my education. My vision is to establish a big farm and later start my own company. My biggest challenge in attaining this vision is financial resources. My vision however, remains clear and I am working towards it. My education has been instrumental in managing my farming. I have a Diploma in Human Resource Management and a Degree in Planning and Project Management. It is not unusual for me to have up to five workers at a time tending to the farm. My skills in human resource management have come in handy while managing the workers. My project management skills have been useful when developing my short and long-term plans. My short-term plan is to set up the horticulture project in a manner that enables it to transform into a profitable venture in the long run. To this end, I have leased one-and-a-half acres of land on which I have started my horticultural project by experimenting between kales, onions, and tomatoes. The aim of the experiment is to establish which of the three vegetables is more productive and profitable for this ecological zone. Apart from growing crops, I also keep chicken, cows and goats and engage in agribusiness where I buy and sell food stuff. I really appreciate the sound advice from Mr. Mathitu because my education background is not in agriculture.
I must say, the venture that really boosted my financial situation a few years back was planting trees. I owned a Eucalyptus plantation which I planted while in college perusing a Diploma. In addition to the plantation, I also established a tree nursery, on land that I inherited from my father. I sold seedlings from the nursery to neighboring farmers and generated some revenue. I sold the Eucalyptus trees when they were ready for harvesting and invested part of the proceeds in advancing the Diploma I attained, to a University degree. Looking back, I can confidently say that diversifying my sources of income to include horticulture, livestock and forestry has been a good idea.
Raphael, you stated earlier that you grew maize and beans. How do you compare growing maize with farming vegetables?
When I grew maize I would harvest 20 bags. At that time, one bag would retail at Ksh 3,000 shillings. This meant that I would make Ksh 60,000. The cost of inputs and labour amounted to Ksh 30,000 which is half the amount of money I made. I find this amount very little. I think vegetables are more profitable. For example, 10 grams of certified tomato seeds can yield about 3,000 tomato seedlings. This translates to about 50 crates of tomatoes when they are ready for harvest. Each crate retails at about Ksh 1,300. Preliminary results from my experiment reveal that growing kales is not profitable due to the low yields I have been recording. My experiment has so far revealed that onions and tomatoes grow better than kales, especially when I use hybrid seeds. I am only midway my one-year research. So far, I can see that the vegetables are more profitable compared to growing maize and beans.
Good record keeping has been very beneficial in this venture. The records help me keep track of my expenses. I keep records starting from cost of leasing the land that I farm, land preparation, purchase of seeds, fertilizer and all other farm inputs, which include irrigation equipment.
What is your advice to the youth?
The youth should come together to establish various projects in order to become independent. They should not sit back and wait for jobs. These days jobs are very few. They should start projects as they search for jobs so that when they eventually get employed they have a foundation and some experience. This should give them an early start at life. Projects will not only help them discover their talent, but also offer some financial reprieve to their parents. I have observed that some youth have completed high school, others university but they are fully dependent on their parents. I advise them to keep themselves busy as they look for opportunities that can advance their financial situation.